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Texas congressmen introduce bill to help FERC expedite LNG project reviews

Two Texas congressmen representing the Houston region have introduced legislation that aims to help the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission more quickly process LNG export project applications.

Reps. Pete Olson, R-Texas, and Gene Green, D-Texas, unveiled a bill that would give FERC permission to work with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to set salaries that are more competitive with the private sector and bring in more experts to expedite the agency's work.

FERC Commissioner Neil Chatterjee earlier this month made a public plea for more resources to help the agency to process more applications for U.S. LNG export projects. The legislators in a July 26 news release highlighted the salary disparity between federal and private engineers, noting that the pay difference has complicated the commission's ability to move quickly through its permitting process.

"The task of reviewing applications for vital infrastructure such as liquefied natural gas export terminals is among the commission's top responsibilities," Chatterjee said in a July 26 statement. "While the talented staff at the commission has been working diligently to evaluate these applications, more needs to be done to ensure our process moves forward in an efficient manner."

There are 13 LNG export applications pending at FERC with 23 Bcf/d of export capacity, and there are additional projects are in an earlier review stage. Some applications have been waiting at FERC since 2015, Chatterjee said.

Under the legislation, FERC would only be allowed offer higher salaries when the commission could confirm that there was a "critical need," the lawmakers' news release said. The decision to raise salaries on key positions would need to be reviewed every five years, and the commission would also have to report on its hiring and staffing processes.